Nweke Advocates Professional Redirection Under Renewed Hope Mantra
BY GBOGBOWA GBOW
Former president of the National Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) and Head, Sea Empowerment Research Center, Dr. Eugene Nweke has called for a renewed focus on professionalism and regulatory effectiveness in the marine and blue economy industry in the new year and beyond.
In a new year message to practitioners, Nweke outlined several challenges and opportunities facing the sector under the government’s ‘Renewed Hope Mantra’, even as he highlighted perceived policy changes implemented in 2023, such as the establishment of the Marine and Blue Economy, the National Single Window project, and the new Customs laws, which he says disrupted the industry to a large extent and hence the need for effective refocusing and professional adaptation.
The renown freight forwarder while calling attention for greater collaboration and unity among freight forwarding associations necessary to address the identified challenges and reposition the industry in line with the international trade supply chain, stressed the importance of accurate knowledge and expertise in cargo description, classification, and trade regulations for ensuring compliance and professionalism.
Nweke also canvassed the domestication of applicable documentary procedures in line with by the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA) to improve trade security and protect practitioners.
He spoke on issues surrounding Indemnity Letters and recommended the use of Indemnity Letters in shipping and cargo clearance transactions to mitigate risks and liabilities associated with Bill of Lading (BOL) usages amongst several others.
A highly respected maritime resource person, Nweke urged the government and Nigeria Customs Service to create a level playing field for all trade participants, and to seek a common platform that will address imbalances created by import racketeering and insider traders.
The statement reads: “The year 2024 promises, a deliberate commitment and prompt intervention from the central government, this is with respect to the administrative policy thrust, aka “Renewed Hope Mantra”.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the following administrative resolutions taken so far in the out gone year 2023, are clear pointers to its deliberate policy redirection, with a capacity to cause both imminent industry uproars (distortions) with a likelihood to culminate into positive changes, in this regards.
“The renewed commitment towards the evolution of a National Single Window (NSW) Project Implementation – this calls for strategic professional regulatory repositioning, consultation and synergies. In addition, the renewed commitment by the Nigeria Customs Service in relation to driving a professional Customs Services, and its determination towards strengthening its e-customs modernization efforts – this principally calls for self professional reevaluations, re-engineering and realignments on the part of the practitioners and its regulatory council.
“The passage, gazette and implementation of the New Customs laws – without dwelling on critical nomenclature changes as observed, the new laws saliently provides for a bold and ambitious compliance order, in the relation to tackling trade transactions ( imports and export operational clearance) defaults and sanctions, with an intents for additional revenue drive. It imposes a professional integrity questions on the practitioners.
“The ongoing Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) implementation regime – the need for the restructuring, evolution and integration of an effective multimodal transport operator concept in real terms, cannot be overemphasized, so as to guarantee prompt professional networking and participation, especially, with a deliberate focus on exportation, thus, a concluded paradigm shift from the usual, in line with the renewed hope mandate.
“The Signing of Performance Bond, between the President and Minister, in turn extended to between the Minister and Head of Agencies and subsequently the head of agencies subtly extending same to their respective management teams via management retreats – all of these ( ‘a to f’), are clear indicators of business unusual, thus, the need to brace up to professional responsibilities, with a deliberate mindset to imbibing professional refrains, ending the culture of from playing to the gallery as usual.”
While calling for greater and purposeful professional collaboration, Nweke said: “It is a high time to resolve to being proactive and to take firm stands towards resisting undue, unhealthy professional name callings and negative industry placements by many stakeholders. We must collectively and purposefully resist the common and quick referencing as a weaker link instead of stronger link in the international trade, safety and security supply chain.
“It is therefore, worth noting in this new year professional message that, the best time for a purposeful professional unification devoid of association nomenclature divides is now. The real time to buckle up and embrace professional realignment, strategic repositioning, and regulatory effectiveness is now.
“To this extend, it must be reemphasized here that, sound knowledge of cargo description, classification, dynamics of products natures, prompt applications of insurance and trades contracts & rules, judicious articulation of shipping documentation, shipping routes and time zones, etc is the beginning and bedrock of global trade compliance.”
He said in conclusion: “While the Freight Forwarders are admonished to brace up towards potential professional changes and distortions orchestrated by automation, higher revenue interests pursuits and globalization disruptions in the systems, especially, on the heels of renewed hope mantra, the Nigeria Customs Services and government itself has a duty to also create a level playing field that will promote equal trade treatments and promote even competition amongst the trading public. In this wise, the undue red tapes and trade imbalances created by the activities of import racketeering and insider traders must be nibbled on board, this is in further demonstration of transparency in administration and operational practices.”